A Latin cross honoring soldiers who died in WWI will remain standing as is, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
“For nearly a century, the Bladensburg Cross has expressed the community’s grief at the loss of the young men who perished, its thanks for their sacrifice, and its dedication to the ideals for which they fought,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court’s opinion Thursday, concluding the “Peace Cross” doesn’t breach the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.
The American Legion erected the cross in Bladensburg, Maryland, almost 100 years ago to honor 49 soldiers from Prince George’s County who died in WWI. The cross stands on public land, prompting the American Humanist Association to file a complaint in federal court asserting the monument was unconstitutional.
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia previously ruled that the memorial "either places Christianity above other faiths, views being American and Christian as one in the same, or both." The appeals court also argued the cross’ placement on public land was unconstitutional.
Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the 7-2 ruling on Thursday. According to Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion, the peace cross was not an appropriate way to honor those who were not Christians.
"Just as a Star of David is not suitable to honor Christians who died serving their country, so a cross is not suitable to honor those of other faiths who died defending their nation,” Ginsburg said.
But Alito argued that the cross had become a “prominent community landmark” and removing it would be viewed as hostility toward religion.
The Catholic Association lauded the Supreme Court’s ruling, and described it as “common sense.”
“In saving the historic Bladensburg Peace Cross from the American Humanists’ bulldozers, the Supreme Court has brought common sense and clarity to this important First Amendment issue: The Constitution does not require eliminating the great symbols of America’s religious pluralism from the public square,” Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, legal advisor for The Catholic Association, said in a statement Thursday.